Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze Wii U Review

Donkey Kong is back and in the most spectacular fashion and yet somewhat difficult manner.  It’s been a while since I’ve chased down so many banana’s and had relatives jumping on my shoulders, however Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze will see you do this in spades.  This and a whole lot more platforming adventure is what Tropical Freeze is all about, and in short you’ll go ape.

Gameplay

Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze is all about platforming, and certainly old school platforming at that.  The game begins with a nice little introduction that I won’t spoil for you that sets the scene for your adventure which I must admit was a fresh change from the usual story style elements associated with Nintendo’s games.  It certainly is hard when working with a franchise and set of characters that have been around a long time, everyone knows who you are and what you’re capable of and trying to evolve that can always be a challenge.  However developer Retro has truly created something special here that’s a nod to the hardcore Super Nintendo players and also to the new generation gamers that demand oh so much.

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There are six islands for you to explore and each world is represented on a good old fashioned over world map that opens up further as you progress through each stage.  The game is very large and impressive and each level is vastly different in terms of its setting, design and size.  You never feel like you’ve seen the same areas before and there is plenty of variety in each stage.  Whether it’s the frozen mountain Alps, to the underwater sea levels, to the classic mine cart stages and various jungles each setting feels great and is visually pleasing as well.

Tropical Freeze is not as simple either as holding down the right trigger and running as fast as you can by bouncing from platform to platform, oh no.  Far from it actually as such a play style will have you die repeatedly as you collide with enemies, miss jumps and more.  Donkey Kong certainly is no Mario, and despite being large in size his ability to jump long distances are somewhat limited.  However there’s a host of other characters that each have their own special abilities.  These abilities become crucial as the level designs require different characters to get through them and collect some of those hard to reach KONG letters and puzzle pieces.

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You will quickly discover that there are certain jumps, vines and areas that are just simply out of reach with good old Donkey Kong.  Enter the new additional characters to choose from including Cranky Kong, Dixie Kong, Diddy Kong and more.  Each character has their own unique abilities such as Dixie Kong can perform her helicopter spin move which is essential for reaching those high out of reach platforms.  Then there is Cranky Kong who can perform a downward thrusting cane bounce move that will get you across spike filled areas which I must say was a big help indeed.  Then there’s Diddy Kong who not only is a good kart racer, but can actually hover and will assist you with making the long jumps possible.

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Tropical Freeze is also filled with many secrets that are very well hidden.  Sometimes you feel that you’ve found everything that is humanly possible in a level only to discover you missed 2 or 3 puzzle pieces.  It will certainly take several attempts to locate all the secrets as well as changing up which member of the Kong family helps you along. 

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One important point that must be mentioned is the games difficulty.  In short, it’s hard which is a good thing.  All too often games such as these are thought to be for kids due to their colourful characters and game design.  However Donkey Kong will see even the best Call of Duty player rage quit in frustration as he/she repeatedly misses a jump, ledge or vine and trust me, I witnessed it several times.  Should you find that you’re repeatedly stuck on an area, you can always visit the item shop and purchase balloons, potions and shields to keep you alive longer.  There’s even a nod to Zelda with the shield that’s available in the store which was good to see, and the comment beside it should explain what I mean.  The games boss fights also require a little thought and planning and can definitely take you by surprise, and when you do defeat the boss the encounter ends with a button mashing scene that you just have to experience.

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One of the biggest draw backs with Tropical Freeze is the complete and utter disregard for the Nintendo Wii U’s gamepad that essentially does nothing, apart from provide a screen mirroring experience.  Its first party titles that should shine in terms of unique gameplay yet in this regard it is completely under-utilized and by that I mean not at all.  Disappointing.  

Multiplayer

Tropical Freeze also allows you to play with a friend and enjoy the game together and thankfully on the same screen.  I played as Donkey Kong while my brother played as Dixie Kong and together we tore up the landscape that was until the landscape tore me a new one and I was constantly using our free lives up to my brother’s frustration.  We had to slow it down and work together in order to survive by for example picking each other up, throwing the other player and combining our special moves together that would wipe out all enemies on the screen at one.  It’s a lot of fun, and definitely worth trying with a friend.

Graphics & Sound

Tropical Freeze is simply stunning to look at. The detail in the lush jungles and islands provides and abundance of colour and warmth.  The characters look absolutely amazing in full HD, even down to the hair on Donkey Kong to the detail on Cranky Kong’s cane.  I never feel disappointed with the presentation of a Nintendo title and every detail from the foreground to the background look absolutely amazing.  Game sound is also fantastic and also features hidden nods to previous games in the series music and more retro 16 bit tunes.

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Overall

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is the kind of platformer that I grew up on.  Bright, colourful, intensely challenging and extremely rewarding and packed with more secrets, hidden areas and more.  These are the kind of experiences that Nintendo is well known for and once again I am extremely impressed.  However, the lack of a true online gaming mode across Nintendo’s network and absolutely zero integration with the gamepad makes me wonder why this needed to be a Wii U exclusive.  However those gripes aside you will not find anything better than this right now, and it’s an absolute hoot to play and if you own a Wii U, well you’ve most certainly already picked this up.

8.5

Written by

Paul Barbara

I'm 38, been an avid gamer since I was 5 (1981) and owned almost all systems possible in that time. I love podcasting, having produced over 180 episodes over the last 5 years and I get a real buzz out of discussing all this gaming news with other gamers. So tune in!

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